How-to Guide to Helping Children Overcome Dental Anxiety
Dental fear is common in both children and adults. For many adults who are scared of the dentist, the fear originated in childhood from a bad experience or a general anxiety about having the dentist working inside their mouth.
To combat dental fears throughout childhood and into adult life, it can help to start working with children when they’re very young to familiarize them with the importance of good oral health. The following is a how-to guide to better help you prepare your kids for a trip to the dentist.
The American Dental Association encourages a first visit to the dentist soon after your child’s first tooth erupts or before their first birthday. Additionally, the earlier your child gets to sit in the dentist’s chair and experience a routine checkup, the less traumatic it can be in their older years when they are more aware of what’s happening.
By taking your child to regular dental appointments, at least every six months, your child will become more familiar — and eventually more comfortable — with an in-office visit.
Speak with the dentist beforehand
The Tria Dental Tysons staff is accommodating and experienced in treating pediatric patients. They can provide you with resources and information to help you better prepare your child for their visit.
The dental team can fill you on what to expect during the appointment, so you’ll have a better understanding of what your child will experience and how the staff handle difficult situations. This can also help ease your own fears about your child acting out during the appointment.
Schedule a pre-visit
It can help ease your child’s mind if they get an opportunity to look around the dental office for themselves before the actual appointment. Contact the Tria Dental Tysons staff to schedule a brief visit so your child can meet the dentist and see what happens in a real dental office.
On the day of the appointment, familiar settings can ease your child’s fears and make it easier to get through the appointment.
Keep explanations simple
If your child is old enough to ask questions, keep your answers short and age-appropriate. There’s no need to bring up shots or other potentially frightening things leading up to the appointment. These topics of conversation can trigger fear in your child that will carry over to the visit.
Focus on the good parts of the dental visit, such as the importance of having healthy teeth, that the dentist will show them how to brush properly, and how wonderful it is that your child is old enough to visit the dentist.
Children sometimes like to test authority and may do so by refusing to brush their teeth or by eating too much junk food. Never threaten a trip to the dentist because of your child’s resistance to good oral hygiene.
These threats can instill fear of the dentist and make your child hesitant to trust the dental staff. Instead, encourage good oral hygiene by brushing your own teeth alongside your child and encouraging them to keep their mouths healthy and clean.
Children thrive on interaction with their parents. Schedule some time during the days leading up to a dental visit by letting your child take a turn playing dentist with you as a patient. If you’re not keen on letting your child play around with your teeth, use a substitute doll or stuffed animal instead.
Provide a clean toothbrush and play along with the pretend dental visit, showing your child what may happen during their upcoming appointment. This playtime can create positive associations for your child, and it gives you something to refer to if they get nervous during the appointment.
If your child has a favorite toy or blanket that provides them comfort, let them bring it to the dentist’s office. These little comforts can make a big difference in your child’s ability to sit still and cooperate during the appointment.
Ask for help
If your own dentist phobias are too much to handles, consider asking your partner or another trusted adult to take your child for their dental checkups. Your child can easily pick up on your own anxieties, even if you try hard not to show them. This can cause your child to develop their own fears based on your reactions in the dentist’s office.
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